Microsoft, it seems, hates to see other Silicon Valley dudes enjoying numero uno position - even in sectors where the Gates Gargantua has not previously competed.

It has been common knowledge for some time that Microsoft planned a head-on confrontation with Google [WAMN: 11-Nov-04], since when its Beta-version has been available.

Yesterday, February 1, the Alpha version saw light of day across twenty-four nations and in ten languages. It is clear that Microsoft means business. with several bells and whistles attached to the product. Among them ...

  • The ability to ask specific questions, such as "what is the capital of the Czech Republic?" or "which is North America's longest river?". The answers are provided by a link to Microsoft's Encarta encyclopedia which boasts more than 1.4 million entries.

  • A claimed refresh rate of around five billion websites every two days, hyped as seven times more frequent than other search engines.

    Says MSN's UK head of information services Matt Whittingham: "I think consumers want search engines to be a bit smarter, to know where they are geographically and to alter searches depending on the time of day and if they are at work or at home."

    Google contented itself with a non-committal statement: "We welcome all advancements in search technology because it's the users who ultimately win."

    Data sourced from Sky News (UK); additional content by WARC staff